Tuesday, 10 October 2006

Justice and Administration Committee Members meet Council of Europe delegation

Members of the Justice and Administration Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Vojkan Tomic, Marko Krstin, and Goran Rakovac, met, at Assembly House, a delegation of Council of Europe experts implementing the Serbia Prison Reform Project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.



Members of the Justice and Administration Committee of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, Vojkan Tomic, Marko Krstin, and Goran Rakovac, met, at Assembly House, a delegation of Council of Europe experts implementing the Serbia Prison Reform Project, funded by the Canadian International Development Agency.

The meeting focused on parliamentary oversight of prisons, foreseen in the new Act on the Performance of Criminal Sanctions that came into effect in early 2006. Council of Europe experts should help in establishing a more efficient system for external prison control – one of the obligations undertaken by Serbia when it joined the Council of Europe.

The visiting delegation was especially interested in the Justice and Administration Committee’s timeframe for forming a commission to oversee the performance of criminal sanctions, foreseen under the Act, as well as whether there were other means of overseeing prison facilities.

Committee members said the commission was being formed, and that it would be made up of five permanent members (all legal experts), and is to be independent. Although the commission is yet to be appointed (the responsibility with this lies with the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia at the Committee’s proposal), Committee members visited prisons on several occasions to control prisoners’ living conditions, and also spoke with inmates’ families. These visits involved the media as well; the general consensus was that living conditions in prisons had improved in relation to the past. In addition, judicial control of the performance of criminal sanctions has also been introduced.

The meeting also discussed the institution of ombudsman, introduced in Serbia’s proposed new Constitution for the first time. The ‘citizens’ protector’, appointed and dismissed by, and responsible to, the National Assembly, will be regulated by a special law. Committee members underlined that local government bodies in certain communities – primarily Vojvodina – had already established ombudsmen, who have proven their worth in practice.

Council of Europe experts emphasised that the new law should extend the ombudsman’s powers, adding that Serbia should adopt other European Union norms and standards relating to the performance of criminal sanctions.



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